Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Wendy Meade


The path to understanding Bertolt Brecht’s Epic Theatre in any theatre history class is often paved in terms of its contrasts with Konstantin Stanislavsky’s realistic theatre. Two of the most influential theatre practitioners of the 20th century, Brecht and Stanislavsky, are presented as polar opposites and as essentially incompatible. For instance, one learns that Brecht theatre intends to turn its spectators into critical thinkers, to prevent them from emotionally identifying with the play in anyway, and to present them with a picture of the world- recognizable yet strange. Conversely, one learns that Stanislavskian theatre intends to turn its spectators into passive observers, to make them empathize with the characters, and to present them with a true experience of the world in all its complexity. These characterizations, while useful in understanding the basics of each style, have led to misconceptions about the specifics of how each achieves its intended effect, and therefore limits the potential for cross-style application.

Through a production of one of Brecht’s short plays, The Exception and the Rule, I experimented with the acting style by presenting the show once Stanislavskian and the other Brechtian. After these performances, I determined through audience surveys and research into contemporary scholarship, that there are elements of Stanislavskian acting technique which are effective in the Brechtian theatre. For example, identification with a character and emotional commitment from the actor, as staples of Stanislavsky’s theories, are components which can heighten the audience’s experience of Brecht’s alienation effect when integrated into a Brecht play. As a result of my research, it is my hope that directors and actors will consider applying some of Stanislavsky’s ideas when producing one of Brecht's plays.